|Directed by||:||Jake Kasdan||Produced by||:||Matt Tolmach, William Teitler||Story by||:||Chris McKenna||Starring||:||Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale||Production company||:||Gyula Pados.||Distributed by||:||Sony Pictures, Entertainment|
Michael Gracey, 105 mins, starring: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Jacqueline Honulik
Roll up, roll up for Hollywood's latest big top extravaganza, The Greatest Showman, a musical biopic of Nineteenth century entrepreneur and circus master, PT Barnum. It’s a strange affair, combining Dickensian elements and moments of bleakness and grotesquery with lots of singing and dancing staged in a deliberately anachronistic fashion. Hugh Jackman carries the show, playing Barnum with an energy and reckless optimism that rekindles memories of Gene Kelly in his pomp but the songs aren’t especially memorable and the cringey sentimentality can’t help but dampen the mood.
As the title proclaims, Jackman’s Barnum is the “greatest showman”. All the other cast members are therefore in his shadow. Michelle Williams has an especially thankless task as his long suffering wife, Charity, who sticks by him, even if she never gets any decent routines of her own. Williams is a formidable actress and it is dispiriting to see her here in such a token role. Even Zac Efron, the veteran star of all those High School Musical movies, is never really more than Barnum’s trusty lieutenant and second in command.
Phineas Barnum is first encountered as a boy growing up in very straitened circumstances. His father Philo (Will Swernson) is an impoverished tailor who takes his son with him when he goes to measure up important clients. That is how little Barnum catches his first sight of the beautiful and very privileged young Charity, soon to become his wife.